Monday, June 27, 2016

Chronic Illness patients on Assisted Suicide

I posted the below in a chronic illness group in which I'm a member, and any comments I share below, I do with the person's permission.

 I was watching the news a couple weeks ago when it was announce that CA was going to decriminalize assisted suicide, and something the anchor said struck me. "A difficult decision." No - it's not. Not for the individuals for whom this is an issue to begin with. People with terminal health problems are either the type that will fight to the absolute bitter end of a painful life, determined to do everything and then-some. Other individuals have looked at their current situation, and the forecasted future, and see no point in putting themselves, and the people close to them, through the slow and agonizing (and often terribly expensive) inevitable. Having to watch the person you always have been slowly and inevitably slip away can be incredibly painful, almost more than the terminal illness itself.
  The public, who can only try to imagine themselves in such a situation may indeed think decided the right to die a difficult thing, but they cannot even begin to truly grasp the most fundamental part of the situation, it is an inevitable end. It seems to me, those who want the right to die on their own terms have so little of their own life actually still under their own control, that being able to have one thing left that can actually be theirs. If the inevitable suffering and wasting from their illness can be avoided, being given the opportunity to do so seems more humane than cruel.
The comments and ensuing threads were really quite something I don't know how many of the general public are aware of in same way. 

J.E.     What really frosts my cookies is when someone has a documented, notarized DNR order in place--and the family decides to fight it, "because they weren't in their right mind when they signed it, this isn't what they really wanted, they’re a fighter, they're too young to die," etc ad nausea. It's even worse when the doctor/hospital agrees with the family! It's completely unfair to the person who's actually suffering, to force them to remain alive because those around them "aren't ready" to "let" them die. 
Similarly, there were a few members who commented that they were already forming back-up plans, or people they felt they could trust on a deeper level to step in and stand up for their wishes or DNRs as they simply didn't feel that immediate family could truly be relied upon to honor their stated wishes, especially in emotional situations;

A.P.     I was very much in favor of legalizing assisted suicide *before* I saw my father die slowly and agonizingly from brain cancer.   Now I believe that death with dignity should be a fundamental human right.    If someone wants to live for as long as possible, that should be their right, as well -- but individuals should be allowed to make decisions about what level of quality of life is acceptable to them      .....    What I want to avoid is eugenics -- especially family members, hospitals, and insurers trying to influence decisions for terminal patients -- but I think that patients themselves should have their advance directives respected.
One member admitted that they have always wanted to choose the time and place of their own death, as a simple matter of the same right to death being just as intrinsically deserved as the right to life. Another told how they had a friend who had had an assisted suicide. There was no recrimination or apology, just a statement of fact.

N.H.     I joined the death with dignity [cause] for this reason. I can't in good consciousness stand by and watch others with my disease suffer when they could choose when to end their life with dignity. I want that choice not only for me but for my children, for whatever partner I might have at that time. My ex never agreed with me. We fought over it. I do believe in the right to no longer fight, to choose when and how to end a life. It's simple. I want that choice, any one who has a chronic or terminal illness should have it.   
A.P.  Very much agreed -- I think that counseling is a must. But the decision, in the end, needs to be up to the individual. 

Overall, I found the conversations that stemmed from my post interesting, but also rather what I had anticipated would be the general response. Chronic illness patients don't have the same hardship seeing a desire to control their death, as they often have much less control in their daily lives. This does in NO WAY mean that we are suicidal, please do not misconstrue my post as such. 

The general public, with its inability to even truly intellectually, much less emotionally understand the idea of their health never going to be able to improve, or to be able to "get well", don't have a similar basis of understanding about some choices that chronic illness patients can. It's simply a fact; 

How patients deal with and accommodate their own very definite reality should not be held to a moral standard set by the ignorant.